Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:4-9, Psalm 106, Matthew 9:12-14;
Have you ever thought God is sitting on the throne waiting to pounce and punish? It’s our natural tendency to think we’re going to get what we deserve. But the truth is, we don’t get what we deserve because Jesus already did. This is the great scandal of the gospel. God being rich in mercy withheld his wrath from us, and unleashed it on His perfectly holy Son on the cross in our place. It’s not fair. Jesus lived the life we should’ve lived, and died the death we deserved to die. I don’t think we’re able to fully fathom what we deserve because of our sin.
Whenever I hear a verse or spiritual insight on a topic on multiple occasions within in a short period of time, I’m convinced God is trying to get something important through to me. In four short verses Paul manages to drive this point home with three mentions of the word grace. In case we still haven’t quite got it, Paul specifies this is not your own doing. Then again, says it’s a gift and then one more time for good measure, states it is not a result of works. Clearly, he was trying to drive home a point.
Why is it so important that we understand this grace gift?
When we forget the grace that God has given us, both to save us and to continually walk in, we are at risk of a few things.
We are vulnerable to pride. Anytime I think I had something to do it with, I compromise grace.
Grace (from the Greek word—charis): absolute freeness of the lovingkindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and freeheartedness of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor; Charis stands in direct antithesis to erga , works, the two being mutually exclusive. God’s grace affects man’s sinfulness and not only forgives the repentant sinner, but brings joy and thankfulness to him. In contrast to charis stands eleos, mercy, which is concerned not with sin itself as charis , but with the misery brought upon the sinner as a consequence of sin.”
Grace isn’t only the starting point for salvation but it’s the reality that we continually walk in. Ephesians 1 tells us that we have redemption and forgiveness according to the riches of His grace . We need both on a continual basis. If we ever think we are operating independently of grace it’s purely an illusion. This, like so many other spiritual truths is easy to know in theory but harder to live out as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
We risk feeling disdain towards those who aren’t where we think they should be rather than being fully of mercy. When God teaches me something, I often wonder why everyone doesn’t have the same revelation or conviction. He gently reminds me, I just told you that and don’t forget it took you years to grasp it.
God who is rich in mercy towards us, longs for us to be merciful toward His people. (Matthew 9:12-14). In order to live as a vessel of His mercy and grace, we need to let Him first pour it into our lives so it can be poured out. He must fill us with grace if our lives are to spill grace.
We are vulnerable to doubting God’s work and faithfulness in our lives. In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to remember what He had done for them. In difficult times, our autopilot often follows our emotions, our fears and our questions. If we are not intentional about recalling God’s faithfulness to us in the past, we can easily miss the opportunity to connect with Him in our present difficulty.
Psalm 106 summarizes the consequences the Israelites faced because of forgetting what God had done. Though they faced the consequences of their choices, God’s ultimate response was great mercy fueld by great love.
Isn’t this a beautiful truth? “For their sake, He remembered His covenant and out of His great love, He relented. He caused all who held them captive to show them mercy,” (Psalm 106:45-46).
Because of His great love, He spared the Israelites from experiencing the full weight of the consequences of their sin and I’m so thankful His rich mercy extends toward us as well. He knows we cannot stand under the weight our guilt, shame and sin causes us. He’s not looking upon us with angry crossed arms saying I told you so He has compassion for the misery sin brings even when we bring it upon ourselves.
There was a time where sin made me feel only frustration, but now more than that, it is heartbreaking. When I see a return to an old way or habit that I know is going to end up in the same hurt, disappointment, and guilt, my heart hurts. The temporary satisfaction of sin never doesn't compare to the abundant life God desires for us. My heart longs for us to believe Him.
We, of course, still experience consequences but because of His great mercy, not the full extent. Instead, He makes us alive together with Christ and he has seated us with Him in heavenly places. This was the necessary solution for being dead in our transgressions: a spiritual resurrection with Christ that infused life.
Sometimes we get to thinking that God has to love us, you know, in the obligatory parent way. Mercy speaks to our need. Grace speaks to His want.
Again, grace is the absolute freeness of the lovingkindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and freeheartedness of the Giver. It is unearned and unmerited favor
Today, reflect on how have you seen the grace of God (affects and forgives our sin) and the mercy of God (alleviating the consequences of sin) at work in your own life. Ask Him for an opportunity to share it with someone.